McGill profs who challenge long-held perceptions win prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships


One questions conventional interpretations of the Cold War’s end; another counters views 
of pre-modern Chinese women by examining their own words in recovered literature

McGill professors Lorenz M. Lüthi and Grace Fong are among the 2011 recipients of prestigious fellowships awarded recently by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The fellowships are awarded to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists and are made on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. This year’s 180 successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants.

Professor Lorenz Lüthi questions conventional views of the end of the Cold War.

Historians have almost unanimously associated the end of the Cold War with the collapse of Communist regimes in East Europe in 1989. McGill History and Classical Studies Professor Lorenz Lüthi regards this as a too narrow and too Eurocentric view. Instead, the author of The Sino-Soviet Split argues that events in East Asia in the 1960s either triggered – or at least timed – developments in Europe and, to a lesser degree, in the Middle East. He also maintains that the Cold War ended in East Asia and the Middle East over the period of 1979 to 1983, during which post-Cold War structures in Europe were put in place. Where conventional historical interpretation regards the end of the Cold War as a short and decisive event, Lüthi asserts that it was a long, drawn out and complicated process, and that started in East Asia with the gradual reintegration of China into the world after 1960.

According to Lüthi, historical reflections on the Cold War have been too focused on state actors and have failed to closely examine non-governmental actors. Although he does not reject state agency, Lüthi is convinced that ideas and their non-governmental transmitters shaped crucial events in East Europe and the Middle East in the 1970s.

“For the last several months I’ve been in Berlin working on my research. I’d been feeling a bit anxious about how I would be able to continue and finish my book, but then last week I received an email from the Guggenheim Foundation notifying me of their decision and all my apprehensions instantly dissipated – and I left for day's work in one of the East German archives with a new spring in my step,” Lüthi said. “The fellowship ensures that I will finish my large interpretative book on the second half of the Cold War.”

More about Professor Lorenz M. Lüthi and his research:

Professor Grace Fong has spent more than a decade recovering the rich repertory of long-lost and neglected writings by Chinese women of late dynastic China and bringing them to the attention of the scholarly world and the general public

Until relatively recently, pre-modern Chinese women were regarded as illiterate, passive and subservient to their fathers, husbands and sons. This narrative, in which women were often made into a symbol of China’s backwardness, was constructed by nationalists and revolutionaries attempting to re-establish China’s position in the world in the face of Western imperialism and social, political and moral collapse at the turn of the 20th century.  Inspired by Western developments in feminist analysis that re-vision women as agents in history and literature, Department of East Asian Studies Professor Grace Fong challenged the narrative and re-evaluated the position and contributions of pre-modern Chinese women. After extensive research, she rediscovered an enormously vibrant women’s literary culture the presence of which had been mostly forgotten in literary collections that have survived in rare book rooms in China and the West. These discoveries led her to create the Ming Qing Women’s Writings database and publish the first monograph study in a Western language on the writing and agency of these women, Herself an Author: Gender, Agency, and Writing in Late Imperial China (2008).

Explaining how the fellowship will benefit her research, Fong said, “I feel extremely honoured to receive this prestigious fellowship in recognition of my research on the literary accomplishments and historical significance of these remarkable women as it will enable me to complete my project on how the life histories of Chinese women are constructed in their own words and in the words of others that frame their writings.”

More about Professor Grace Fong and her research:

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Que., in 1821, McGill is Canada’s leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 36,000 students, including 8,300 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, with more than 7,200 international students making up 20 per cent of the student body. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including more than 6,200 francophones.



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